Museum Of Bellas Artes

Today, Swedish electro-pop trio Museum of Bellas Artes cuts the ribbon on their highly anticipated debut album Pieces. We met with band members Joanna Herskovits, Alice Luther Näsholm, and Leonard Öhman over a coffee around the corner from their studio to talk about the album, their influences, and their ambivalence towards live shows.

When did you meet?
– Alice and I knew each other since we were really young, Joanna recalls. I think we were about twelve years old when we first met. We did music then too, but of course a different kind. I know Leo through Alice.

Tell me about your debut album.
– We began working on the album two and a half years ago, Alice says. It would take us much longer than we had planned. The project would also take on new unexpected paths.

How come?
– I think it’s pretty natural that it takes longer than what you initially think, Joanna says and Alice agrees.

– Yes, and when it takes that long it’s not unlikely that it will turn out different from what you first had in mind.

So how did the music turn out?
– I used to write music in major before, now it’s more in minor, Leonard says. I think it’s because the music I listen to now is mainly in minor. It’s Alice that has written most of the songs though. You can say that the theme of the album is Alice’s life, he says laughing. She is very secretive about the songs.

– Yes, we’re usually not allowed to see the lyrics of the songs, Joanna adds.

– I think that’s because I personally don’t like to know what the songwriter was thinking when writing a certain song, as it might not correspond to my own interpretation of it, Alice says. It just makes you disappointed and kills the magic of the song.

 The main thing is to convey
some sort of emotion, but it’s up
to the listener to decide which one

Where do you find inspiration?
– When listening to music, Leonard says.

– It’s hard to pinpoint a particular source of inspiration, it’s so varied, Alice says. There might be one source of inspiration for the text, one for the production, and so on.

When I listen to your music I get a sense of eighties’ disco and maybe a bit Florence + The Machine.
– Florence + The Machine is a reference I haven’t heard before, Alice says. We’re often told that we sound like the Gothenburg scene.

– When it comes to the production I can agree that it’s a bit eighties, Leonard says.

– I was listening a lot to Cocteau Twins and r’n’b during the recording.

– Which were totally different from my influences.

– I think the fact that we have such varied influences is what creates our sound and makes it unique, Joanna adds. We never talk about our influences with each other though.

What are your thoughts on playing live?
– To give concerts isn’t our primary goal. I’ve never wanted that, that wasn’t why I started playing music. I prefer to produce, Leonard says.

– It’s not what we favour, Alice continues. Sometimes, when you feel that you made a really awesome song, you can feel an urge to perform it, but it’s with mixed emotions. It’s a fun but scary thrill.

Museum of Bellas Artes. Photo by Victoria Stillwell.

How did you become interested in music?
– We haven’t attended a musical school or anything like that, Alice says.

– I became interested in music when I was sixteen, Leonard says. I didn’t know anything about it; I had to start from scratch.

Wow, isn’t that kind of late?
– Well, consider this: Mozart began writing music when he was about four years old, and he lived until he was thirty-five. I started a bit later, but will hopefully live a bit longer. In that way it might turn out to be the same amount of time, Leonard says with a laugh. You have to think positively.

What kind of audience do you think you have?
– Well, we hope our audience has a genuine interest in music, Alice says.

– It feels like we were more “audience friendly” at the beginning, reaching out to a broader audience, Joanna says. I think this album will attract another type of audience.

– Maybe this album is a bit more out of the mainstream, Alice continues. It has a different sound; it’s not as catchy and easily accessible as our previous EP.

Museum of Bellas Artes. Photo by Victoria Stillwell.

What emotion do you want to convey to your listeners?
– To me, the main thing is to convey some sort of emotion, Alice says. But it’s up to the listener to decide which one.

– Maybe more like emotions, in plural. I like it when music shifts in emotions, Leonard says. There is a German nineteenth century music genre called sturm und drang, where the songs constantly shifted in emotions. I’ve been listening to that a lot while recording this album.

– Yes, I’ve thought of that too, Alice says. You just want to make the listener feel something, even if that feeling is more or less indefinite.

– We’ve really thought it through this time, Leonard adds. We used to have this directness in our music, which people seemed to appreciate, but we decided to make this album more complex. 

Are you planning to break through internationally?
– We’ve actually had a lot of shows abroad, Joanna says.

– Our listeners are spread around the world, Leonard says.

­– Yes, I think we even have more listeners abroad, Alice adds. We have fans in South America, Japan, and France.

What are your thoughts on the future?
– The thought is to keep making music together.

– This album has been so long in the making, we won’t embark on a new one right away, Joanna says. Maybe we’ll release some singles.

Listen to Museum of Bellas Artes debut album Pieces here.

Photos by Victoria Stillwell.